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Department of Plant Sciences


The unique concentration of plant sciences collections and institutions in Cambridge makes this a truly exciting place to work and study. We benefit from the presence of two exceptional collections – the Cambridge University Botanic Garden and Cambridge University Herbarium. In addition, the Department has tight associations with the Sainsbury Laboratory, an independently funded research institution with a focus on plant cell and developmental biology.

We are currently in the process of establishing the Crop Science Centre, consolidating pre-existing links with NIAB and opening the way for many more collaborations.

botanic garden

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden holds the University plant collection of about 9,000 species. These species, and the beautiful landscapes which they define, are available for research and teaching within the University. The western half of the Garden has a main avenue flanked by majestic conifers, a sinuous peripheral path, a lake, and the unique Systematic Beds, which hold the main teaching and research resource for plant diversity. They contain 1600 species of herbaceous plants from about 100 families in a complex array of 150 beds.

The trees were planted in groups to demonstrate variation within species, species and their hybrids, and mutations (or ‘monstrosities’ as they were called). These groups demonstrate Henslow’s fascination with variation and the definition of species, well before the ‘Origin of Species’ was written.


The Sainsbury Laboratory

The Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU) is a new research institute sited in the Botanic Garden. It is funded by the Gatsby Foundation and opened in 2011 by Her Majesty the Queen. The aim of the Laboratory is to elucidate the regulatory systems underlying plant growth and development using new scientific and technical resources, including high-throughput DNA sequencing, novel imaging methods, sophisticated genetic tools and refined chemical interventions. The data derived from these approaches has opened the way for predictive computational models, which are essential for understanding the dynamic, self-organising properties of plants.

Although the Sainsbury Laboratory is an independent research Institute, it works closely with Plant Sciences and other Departments to establish a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary research environment that will capitalize on these exciting opportunities.


The Herbarium

With specimens dating from 1703, the Herbarium houses an internationally famous collection of over 1 million pressed, dried and mounted plants. Specimens from around the world have been added to the collection as a result of purchases, gifts, exchanges and benefactions. The British collection is one of the finest and specimens are still being added. The Herbarium is famous for its historic collections such as the plant specimens gathered by Charles Darwin on the voyage of the ‘Beagle’, and the John Lindley Herbarium with its many new species collected on nineteenth-century expeditions to unexplored places in North America and Australia. The Herbarium also has a unique collection of taxonomic books and floras.

crop science square

Crop Science Centre

The Crop Science Centre is a new and unique translational research operation in crop sciences. It is a partnership between the University of Cambridge and NIAB. 3CS will be led and shaped by the newly-appointed Geiger Professor of Crop Sciences.